A time-sensitive tax extenders bill stalled in the Senate on Thursday, creating another political headache for Senate Democrats as they seek to extend jobless benefits and middle-class tax breaks that have already expired.
Though Majority Leader Harry Reid told reporters, “We’re not going to give up” after a failed attempt to limit debate, it was unclear how the Nevada Democrat plans to move forward with the legislation or whether more cuts have been planned to try to draw more votes.
Finance Chairman Max Baucus (D-Mont.) and Reid were scheduled to meet Friday to discuss their next steps.
One senior Senate Democratic aide said Reid would likely move off the bill and attempt to put political pressure on Republicans before returning to the measure later. It was not clear whether Reid would let the bill hang in limbo beyond the July Fourth recess.
Two Members of the Senate Democratic Conference — Joe Lieberman (ID-Conn.) and Ben Nelson (D-Neb.) — voted with all Republicans present to prevent Reid from bringing debate on the bill to a close, the second procedural test vote to fail this week. The vote was 56-40, and 60 votes were needed to beat back a GOP-led filibuster.
Reid and Baucus had pared back the $140 billion legislation to $118 billion this week, after the first procedural test vote failed Wednesday. In that vote, 12 Democrats defected to vote with all Republicans.
After the Thursday vote, Reid blamed Republicans for blocking the tax extenders and jobless benefits. The measure also included a one-year delay to a scheduled 21 percent pay cut for doctors who treat Medicare beneficiaries and veterans, as well as federal payments to states for Medicaid.
“Tonight, every single Republican voted to deny middle class families tax relief that would help make ends meet,” Reid said in a statement. “Tonight, every single Republican voted to deny states critical aid that would keep firefighters, police officers and teachers employed. And tonight, every single Republican voted to tell the one in ten Americans who have lost their jobs that they are on their own.
“Senate Republicans might think tonight’s vote wins them points with their special interest friends,” Reid added. “They might think tonight’s vote is a political win. But tonight’s vote does nothing but help destroy our country’s economic recovery and put hard working Nevadans and Americans in a deeper hole.”
Though the tax extenders and unemployment insurance are popular programs, Republicans and some Democrats have insisted that the entire measure be offset with spending reductions elsewhere, while Democrats have argued the bulk of the bill is paid for.
Before it was trimmed, the bill would have added nearly $78 billion to the already ballooning federal deficit. The bill that was rejected Thursday night would have added $55 billion to the deficit.